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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

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  1. How to Get Ready for an ICE Audit? (part 2)

    By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    As previously stated, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced an increase of I-9 Inspections/Audits "by four to five times." What can employers do to decrease their vulnerability to significant penalties if one is audited? There are two things to do which go hand in hand – implement an immigration compliance policy and conduct an internal I-9 audit. On November 13, 2017, I discussed implementing an immigration compliance policy This blog will focus on conducting an internal I-9 audit.

    An internal I-9 audit (also called a self-audit) is the best prevention tool to avoid costly penalties if ICE conducts an inspection of your I-9 forms pursuant to a Notice of Inspection/subpoena. An internal I-9 audit is not required by law but is highly recommended. However, unless such an audit is conducted by, or under the close supervision of, an immigration compliance attorney, an employer may do more damage than good. A classic example of doing more damage is finding errors on the I-9 forms, completing new I-9 forms, and destroying the existing I-9 forms.

    An employer should conduct internal I-9 audits yearly or less frequently, depending on size of company and number of employees hired each year. An employer may choose to audit the I-9 forms of all current employees, all current employees and former employees for the last two years, or a sample of I-9 forms selected based on neutral and non-discriminatory criteria. If a subset of I-9 forms is audited, the employer should consider carefully how it chooses I-9 forms to be audited to avoid discriminatory or retaliatory audits. Thus, one should not audit only those employees with permanent resident cards or foreign-sounding last names.

    If errors are found on I-9 forms, they should be corrected by the employee for Section 1 errors and the employer for Sections 2 and 3 errors. For corrections in Section 2, it should be the employer’s representative who originally reviewed documents and signed the certification. If that person is no longer employed, it is usually best to complete a new I-9 form. However, if it is a minor error, such as failure to include an expiration date in List A or List B where the document is attached to the I-9 form or the employer’s address is missing, another HR representative can make the correction.

    If an I-9 form is missing data, such as the title of a document or expiration date, one may add that information in a different color pen, initial, and date the correction. If information is put in the wrong list, i.e., Social Security card in List B and driver’s license in List C, draw arrow in different color pen to correct list, and initial, and date the correction.

    To correct multiple errors on an I-9 form, a new I-9 form may be completed and attached to the old form. Or if entire sections of the I-9 form were left blank, one may complete just that section and attach it to the old I-9 form. In making corrections or attaching a new I-9 form, always include a note concerning the reason changes were made to the existing I-9 form or a new I-9 form was completed. It is sufficient to state the errors were located in an internal I-9 audit.

    Other helpful ideas to implement in an internal I-9 audit are:
    1. Establish a re-verification tickler system to ensure I-9 forms are checked in a timely manner;
    2. Establish a backup system to ensure timely compliance with I-9 form rules when a human resource professional is out of the office;
    3. Segregate I-9 forms from other personnel records;
    4. Consider using an electronic Form I-9 product to automate the collection of information, to reduce errors, speed up the production of information in the case of a government audit, and ensure timely re-verification of I-9 forms.

    For more information on how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  2. How to Get Ready for ICE Audit? (part 1)

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

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    As I stated in my blog entry on October 19, 2017, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced an increase of I-9 Inspections/Audits "by four to five times." What can employers do to decrease their vulnerability to significant penalties if one is audited? There are two things to do which go hand in hand – implement an immigration compliance policy and conduct an internal I-9 audit. This blog will focus on drafting and implementing an immigration compliance policy. Part 2 will focus on conducting an internal I-9 audit.

    As an immigration attorney who represents lots of companies in immigration compliance matters, one of the first questions I ask a new client is whether they have a written immigration compliance policy. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the companies say no or point to one paragraph in their employee manual.

    Why should a company have an immigration compliance policy? There are many reasons but one of the most important is to identify the person in charge of immigration compliance. It’s amazing how often that simple question is met with uncertainty. As we all know, if someone does not take ownership over a policy that policy will flounder.

    Here are other items that should be in an immigration compliance policy:
    1. Determine whether copies of documents should be retained;
    2. Determine whether the company should use E-Verify;
    3. Determine if the company is required by state or federal law to use E-Verify or FAR E-Verify;
    4. Zero tolerance policy for employment of individuals who cannot comply with work authorization rules;
    5. Timing and procedures for regular internal I-9 audits to be conducted;
    6. Rules on which management has access to I-9 records;
    7. How often is training required for employer representatives, who are completing I-9 forms;
    8. Define the required retention policy of I-9 forms – 1 year from employee’s termination or 3 years from original hire, whichever is longer;
    9. Rules for working with outside contractors;
    10. Re-verification procedures for employees with Employment Authorization documents;
    11. Set protocols for interacting with government officials if ICE or another federal agency shows up at worksite; and
    12. Policy on no discrimination of applicants/employees based on their lawful immigration status – citizenship, permanent resident, etc. or national origin.

    For more information on implementing an immigration compliance policy and how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0997083379.
  3. Mary’s Gone Crackers Inc. Agrees to Pay $1.5 Million for Immigration Allegations to

    By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law
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    Mary’s Gone Crackers Inc., a natural food company based in Gridley, California, has agreed to pay $1.5 million and to establish a corporate compliance program under a non-prosecution agreement reached with the U.S. Attorney’s Office following an investigation into potential criminal violations of federal immigration laws.

    According to the agreement, in March 2012, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audited Mary’s Gone Crackers’ I-9 forms for its employees. Thereafter, ICE provided a Notice of Suspect Documents (NSD) stating that 49 of Mary’s Gone Crackers’ employees appeared not to be authorized to work in the United States. After one employee provided corrected documentation, Mary’s Gone Crackers informed ICE that the other 48 had all resigned or been terminated.

    However, within less than a month, Mary’s Gone Crackers rehired at least 13 employees that it claimed had been terminated or resigned, all of them under new names. One of those 13, an operations supervisor, never stopped working for Mary’s Gone Crackers at all, but instead continued to work under a new assumed name and received payment as an independent contractor, rather than through the company’s ordinary payroll. Several other Mary’s Gone Crackers employees knew that the operations supervisor was not eligible to work in the United States. When a search warrant was executed at the company’s Gridley facility in January 2013, at least 12 of the 13 rehired individuals were still working at Mary’s Gone Crackers.

    During the course of the I-9 audit and its rehiring of individuals, Mary’s Gone Crackers had at times consulted with an outside counsel. After the search warrant, Mary’s Gone Crackers cooperated with the government’s investigation and took remedial measures, including terminating employees, stopping use of the outside counsel involved, and taking various steps to ensure compliance with immigration laws and I-9 regulations, including use of E-Verify and the Social Security Number Verification Service.
    The company also established an anonymous tip line so that employees can report any potential I-9 issues. The non-prosecution agreement requires Mary’s Gone Crackers to establish a corporate compliance program covering its I-9 procedures and its use of the E‑Verify system, and requires timely and complete disclosure of violations of immigration laws or regulations within 24 hours of discovery. It also requires Mary’s Gone Crackers to provide corporate compliance reporting to the United States Attorney’s Office for two years. No federal criminal charges will be brought against Mary’s Gone Crackers for the investigated conduct if the company complies with the terms of the non-prosecution agreement.
  4. Judge Says State Immigration Law is Unconstitutional

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser


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    What started as a workers’ compensation case has resulted in an interesting decision from a chancery court judge in Nashville, Tennessee -- simultaneously revealing employer immigration violations and striking down a state immigration law.

    Carlos Martinez, a native of Guatemala, was working in the United States earning $400 per week as an undocumented day laborer. On August 8, 2011, Mr. Martinez slipped and fell in wet grass while operating a lawn mower. The lawn mower ran over his arm and the blade severed his left elbow and forearm. More than three years after his injury, Mr. Martinez found himself in court -- up against his employer, the employer’s insurer, and the Attorney General for the State of Tennessee -- fighting his workers’ compensation claim and trying to prove that he was entitled to benefits despite his federal immigration status.

    Employer Violations
    Mr. Martinez worked for Commercial Services of Pegram, Tennessee, performing painting and other general labor. According to the court, Commercial Services never required Mr. Martinez to fill out an employment application or any other forms such as an I-9 form, nor asked Mr. Martinez whether he was legally eligible to work in the United States.

    State Immigration Law
    According to court documents, Mr. Martinez lost a “significant portion of his arm below his elbow” in the lawn mower accident in 2011, and sustained a vocational disability of 84 percent to his left arm. A Tennessee state immigration law passed in 2009, “capped” Mr. Martinez’s recovery at 1.5 times his medical impairment rating because he was an undocumented worker – slashing his recovery to a vocational disability of 36 percent.

    The Tennessee legislature’s stated intent in passing the law was to “preserve the tradition of legal immigration while seeking to close the door to illegal workers in the State of Tennessee and to encourage the employers of Tennessee to comply with federal immigration laws in the hiring or continued employment of individuals who are not eligible or authorized to work in the United States.” Tenn. Code Ann. 50-6-241(e).

    Instead, what the trial court found is the law had the opposite effect -- making it less costly for employers to hire undocumented workers from a liability perspective, and providing a potential incentive for employers to circumvent the federal law.

    More importantly, the court deemed the statute unconstitutional as a “state immigration policy” preempted by federal law. The court cited the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Arizona v. United States, 132 S. Ct. 2492, 2498 (2012) in which an Arizona state law that attempted “to achieve one of the same goals as federal law – the deterrence of unlawful employment,” involved a conflict in the method of enforcement and served as “an obstacle to the regulatory system Congress chose.” Id. at 2505.

    Proposed State Civil Penalties under IRCA
    Another important distinction made by the trial court was that the Tennessee law imposed civil penalties on employers “to be paid directly to the State of Tennessee”. It found this provision was expressly barred by the terms of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) which preempts “any State or local law imposing civil…sanctions…upon those who employ…unauthorized aliens”. 8 U.S.C. § 1324a(h)(2).

    Conclusion
    The trial court struck down Tenn. Code Ann. 50-6-241(e) in its entirety, and Mr. Martinez was awarded future medicals and permanent partial disability benefits of approximately $30,000. It remains to be seen if the State of Tennessee will appeal the trial court’s decision.


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Size:  2.9 KB ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Buchanan is an attorney with the law firm of Siskind Susser P.C. - www.visalaw.com - a full service U.S. immigration law firm representing employers and individuals nationwide for over 20 years. You can also follow Bruce on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BuchananVisaLaw .

    Updated 04-09-2015 at 04:27 PM by BBuchanan

  5. Can Discharged Undocumented Workers Receive Reinstatement?

    By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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    In Mezonos Maven Bakery, 362 NLRB No. 41 (2015), the National Labor Relations Board (“Board”) considered whether unlawfully discharged undocumented workers may receive “conditional reinstatement.” On remand from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, the Board concluded that the workers would be entitled to reinstatement on the condition that they prove their eligibility to work in the United States.

    This case arose when five employees were discharged from Mezonos Maven Bakery (“Mezonos”) in Brooklyn, New York. They filed a charge with the Board, claiming they were engaged in protected activities under the National Labor Relations Act. Mezonos did not dispute this issue; rather, the company asserted the workers were not entitled to any remedy – back pay or reinstatement – because they were not authorized to work in the United States. Mezonos also asserted that it offered to reinstate five employees if they could provide valid work authorization documents, but none of the employees did.

    On the issue of back pay, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") found that the workers were entitled to back pay even though they were not authorized to work. The ALJ was silent as to the issue of reinstatement. On administrative appeal, the Board reversed the ALJ’s decision to award back pay to the workers, citing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Hoffman Plastic Compounds, Inc. v. NLRB, 535 U.S. 137 (2002) (undocumented workers were not entitled to back pay after their discharge). The Board’s decision was appealed to the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals where it was remanded back to the Board for consideration of the sole issue of reinstatement.

    On remand, and in its final order on March 27, 2015, the Board held that conditional reinstatement was appropriate in the Mezonos case. It explained that conditional reinstatement “is an appropriate remedy where […] an employer knowingly employs individuals who lack authorization to work in the United States and then discharges them in violation of the NLRA. Such a remedy is consistent with the policies of both NLRA and Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA).” Mezonos at p. 3.

    The Board also cited Sure-Tan, Inc. v. NLRB, 467 U.S. 883 (1984), in which the Supreme Court approved of a conditional reinstatement remedy in cases involving unlawfully discharged undocumented workers. The Sure-Tan court explained that making a reinstatement order conditional on compliance with immigration laws eliminates any potential inconsistency with those laws.

    Furthermore, the Board cited one of its own prior decisions in A.P.R.A. Fuel Oil Buyers Group, 320 NLRB 408 (1995) in which it held a conditional reinstatement order (requiring discriminatees to complete an I-9 form and present documentation reflecting work authorization) promoted the policy goals of IRCA and the NLRA.

    The Board concluded that conditional reinstatement does not conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s more recent decision in Hoffman Plastic because that decision did not prevent reinstatement where it is conditioned on an employee providing proof of work authorization.

    The Takeaway
    This case highlights the importance of employers verifying their employees’ work eligibility. Although the remedy of a conditional reinstatement may be available for discharged undocumented workers, this issue might never have been litigated if Mezonos had taken proper steps from the beginning to verify the work eligibility of those five employees.

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Buchanan is an attorney with the law firm of Siskind Susser P.C. - www.visalaw.com - a full service U.S. immigration law firm representing employers and individuals nationwide for over 20 years. You can also follow Bruce on social media via Facebook and on Twitter @BuchananVisaLaw .

    Updated 04-06-2015 at 10:38 AM by BBuchanan

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